Posts Tagged ‘arrest’

A certain economy of illegalities exists at Emory University.  The term ‘economy’ here refers to a distribution of things.  Distributions can be equal, or skewed in favor of the few.  One can say that at Emory University, there is a distribution of illegal activities, and they are administered to differently, rather than entirely eliminated.  In this economy of illegalities, illegal activities are distributed to certain subjects based on their actions and political importance.  The key point is that the desire to eliminate all illegal activities at Emory University is non-existent.  Rather, some illegalities go punished while others are tolerated, and still others are quite encouraged and even rewarded.  The act of differentiating between these types of illegalities is political, insofar as the decisions to cultivate or exterminate the practices in question, or even the drives that may lead to the carrying out of such practices, depend solely on the interests of those administering Emory’s own Law – the Emory administration.  Illegalities that buttress the position of Emory’s administration, or in other words, achieve the bottom line of an elite private university – enriching its stakeholders – are deemed desirable, and so are consistently produced, reproduced, perpetuated, and championed.  Other actions that may undermine the interests of Emory’s administration, even if they are not actually ‘illegal’ according to the law as it is administered off-campus, are represented as Illegal activities and punished, so that the potential for their imitation and duplication can be liquidated, thus accomplishing the desired political effect – preservation of the administration’s interests.

Some concrete examples can aid in understanding the particular configuration of Emory University’s economy of illegalities as we find it today.  Perhaps the most obvious and blatant illegal activity, which would make it the most reproduced through the active preservation of its enabling conditions, at Emory is the ubiquity of under-age drinking found inside and around on-campus fraternity and sorority houses.  Apart from cases so egregious that any perceived indifference towards them could itself be politically costly for Emory University, almost all of these actual infractions of state law not only go unpunished, but form a vibrant part of daily campus life.  Several nights throughout the week, expensively-dressed underage students can be seen in droves walking into and stumbling out of these bustling Greek-lettered taverns.  Even without visiting campus, one can see the celebration of such a culture by simply browsing the Emory webpage, as well as that for the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, where one can find numerous front-display pictures of students with red cups – the universal college alcohol-container used at parties highly patronized by students not yet of age to drink.  Such visibility and prominence of this particular illegal activity on campus evidences its desirability for those with the power to eliminate it.  Obviously they choose not to do so.  This benevolent relationship characterizes the privileged position of those who engage in underage drinking at on-campus fraternity and sorority houses within Emory University’s economy of illegalities.

While under-age drinking parties come with their own dangers, perhaps an even more troubling coordinate within Emory’s economy of illegalities is the use of illegally acquired amphetamines and cocaine as study aids.  A great number of Emory students use drugs such as Adderall, Dexedrine, and cocaine as performance-enhancers during study time so that they may chemically induce more intense focus and higher energy.  Apart from being illegal and incredibly dangerous, such usage also contributes to a thriving culture of academic dishonesty.  Clearly, the illegal usage of Adderall, cocaine, and other similar drugs by Emory students (if they do actually help one ‘cram’) affords an immense advantage to those a) rich enough to acquire them, b) socially safe enough to be inoculated from the adverse legal consequences of trafficking in such illegal substances, and c) morally willing to reap the benefits of illegally enhanced mental capacities.  Emory University students find themselves busy in many aspects of their life, so artificially boosting their energy while at the same time vastly increasing their focus unfairly gives them a leg up on all who cannot or will not do the same.   Dangerous and dishonest – yet at Emory University, Adderall and cocaine usage is quite out in the open (with transactions happening in the Woodruff library and students crushing up and ‘blowing addy’ at computer labs and even in classrooms).  A student need only ask around at Woodruff Library for at most a quarter of an hour in order to find these drugs.  In fact, ask almost any student, and an honest reply will tell you that Emory University must rank near the top nationally in terms of illegal amphetamine campus saturation – it just seems so normal.  And yet the Emory Administration says nothing about the campus-wide normalized illegal amphetamine trade.  Why?  Because the return effects of punitively pursing such illegal activity, as well as the removal of those amphetamine-using subjects from Emory campus does not outweigh the political benefits of retaining such subjects and reproducing such illegalities.  For the Emory administration, the enrollment and multiplication of ‘addy-blowers’ and ‘cokeheads’ at Emory University is politically remunerative; as such, it is not an accidental, but rather produced university reality that is part of the administration’s idea of Emory.  And so the economy of illegalities again dictates that those who partake in these particular illegal activities are safe and secure, if not in their health, at least as far as in the evasion of punishment by the Emory Administration goes.

If the analysis of this illegal economy is pushed even further, one can say that a curriculum of illegality is firmly in place at Goizueta Business School, the proud No. 5 ranked business school in the country. At this training ground of future Bernie Madoffs, Enron CEOs, and Newt Gingrinches, students are explicitly taught to disregard moral values in favor of market values, and to look to the ‘bottom line’ of profit maximization rather than human life.  Students are even wildly encouraged to market themselves.  Their curriculum not only requires no authentic moral wrestling with the world’s problems, but it actively induces amoral, and often illegal, cognitive reflexes.  A common question for a GBS student facing a problem in or out of class is “What can I get away with?”  It is no coincidence that tales of entire-class cheating, successive-semester ‘answer-sharing’ replete with extensive file systems, active and exaggeratedly performed professorial ‘indifference’, and other instances of blatant academic dishonesty that come from the halls of Goizueta are so folkloric in their boldness and scope.  An important connection can be made here between the flows of illegal thinking and acting cultivated at Goizueta and the endemic illegal and fraudulent behavior that characterizes our nation’s governing political and economic systems.  Prefiguration of the formal strategies of political illegality used within the larger national economy of illegalities is being enacted, and this makes sense, as many Goizueta graduates will be encouraged by the powerful offices they may hold and institutions they may run to expand upon the dishonesty and fraud learned and performed during their years at Emory University.  From the Goizueta Buisness School, we can learn that the problems of megalomaniacal governmentality replete with its agents’ perpetual disrespect for and manipulation of the law do not necessarily emerge upon the assumption of offices of great power, but rather are cultivated and developed along the way.

Underage drinking, illegal amphetamine and cocaine usage, induced illegal cognition, not to mention the fake-ID trade and the actions of Emory’s secret societies, among other activities, comprise the politically desired, and thus permitted and reproduced, illegal activities at Emory University.  And yet, for all the tolerance, encouragement, and rewarding of illegal activity at Emory University, as in every economy of illegalities, there are some illegalities that must go punished, for their existence is politically disadvantageous to those who make juridical decisions.  Or better put, there are some actions Emory students may take to which the title of ‘illegal’ as well as stringent punishment must be affixed, so that the Emory administration can successfully eliminate the conditions for repetition, imitation, or proliferation of the so-called ‘crime’, serving and protecting its interests in the process.

One example of such undesirable ‘illegal’ action was my inquiring as to the well-being of a woman I had recognized sitting in Emory’s Woodruff library, as well as the non-communication with the Emory police officers that followed.  As of today, April 14, 2012, Emory University, in conjunction with the State of Georgia, is still pursuing criminal charges for what I ‘did’.  According to the official juridical construction utilized by the state of Georgia, the ‘crime’ I am being charged with is ‘Obstruction’ – a catch-all if I have ever heard one.  But more interestingly, I am concerned with what, for Emory University, was my prosecutable action – what kind of action, in an environment of such tolerated and encouraged illegalities, is undesirable to the point that it merits the Emory administration’s pursuance of criminal prosecution?  (Yes, the Emory administration can easily petition the State of Georgia to drop my charge, so the final decision, and thus the reality of the prosecution, lies with the Emory administration)

Again, as seen in the now widely-circulated video footage, I inquired as to the woman’s well-being, and then had an interaction with an Emory police officer that I’ve described at length in a previous writing.  But this alone is not why Emory seeks to punish me with up to one year in jail.  For Emory, my action is understood solely as the embodiment and enactment of a potentially non-submissive engagement with the Emory Police Department.  More important than the actual action itself, the appearance of my action as potentially non-submissive towards the EPD is indeed what is being seized upon by the Emory administration.  A simple counterfactual proves this point.  It is likely that if I did not have or fumbled with my ID card before the Emory officer handcuffed me, yet appeared submissive to that EPD officer, my charges may have already been dropped and a meeting with the administration and ensuing apology may have already taken place.  However, the reality of potentially appearing to interact with the EPD officer non-submissively is deemed by the Emory administration to be politically too costly, and so is labeled ‘illegal’ and punished severely.  In a sort of penal demonstration involving my arrest in the library in front of many students, along with my rough handling, as well as my transfer to Dekalb County Jail where I was patted down on all of my body parts, stripped naked, and told to get in humiliating positions, the actions that purportedly exist to constitute merely the bringing about of charges were in actuality already-executed punishments themselves.

One thing is clear: the Emory administration’s prosecution of my action is political.  Obviously putting aside conspiracy theories that have been floated out about the administration orchestrating my arrest given my participation in protest movements, it is demonstrable that Emory University has a political interest in my prosecution insofar as maintaining the absolute submission of its students to its on-campus police department is within its set of political desires.  And it is.  With Emory University’s ties to the Department of Homeland Security, CIA, and FBI, maintaining a stout and commanding police force on campus is part of a political program that secures various law enforcement interests, as well as coextensively expanding them in lucrative directions at the same time.

Furthermore, a submissive student body is a welcome sight to corporate, government, and hybrid public-private entities that may invest in Emory University, in the same way that a repressive nation’s politically subdued population is perceived positively by potential foreign investors – the more in-line those at the bottom are (students), the more those at the top (administration officials, board of directors, high-paying investors) can exploit them with impunity, without resistance.  For example, say a large and wildly unethical food-service corporation (imagine that!) wished to open up a location on Emory campus.  If Emory campus was known to be a place where students were free from police harassment and able to exercise political dissent in order to contest such an opening, that corporation might think twice before it concretizes its investment.  But with a subdued student body in place, that corporate entity can carry out its investment because of the low risk involved in doing so, and the Emory administration and its stakeholders can of course glean their significant share of the profit.  With a student-body absolutely submissive to the campus police force, the safety of a wealthy entity’s investment and its profitable return can be more readily expected, and so more expansive investments, which as we know often involve deeper and more finely-tuned exploitation, can be pursued.  Thus, the Emory Police Department itself is an indispensable asset in not only securing but attracting investments.  The key to this all is that the EPD’s authority must appear at all times to be moving uni-directionally – in the direction of ever-expansion.

And so the question that follows becomes, did my action undermine the steady expansion of the authority of Emory’s Police Department?  But in fact, this is not exactly the best question.  A more precise inquiry asks, was the appearance of my action perceived by the Emory Administration as potentially laying the groundwork for any possible future undermining of the expansion of the Emory Police Department’s authority?  By the evidence of Emory’s continued criminal persecution of me, one can conclude that my measured exchange with the Emory police officer, in which I asserted my rights and peacefully disengaged, is in fact understood by the Emory administration as non-submissive, and thus, the first step on the road to questioning and perhaps even demanding justification for(!) the expansion of the authority of the Emory Police Department on our campus.  For the Emory Administration this is politically unacceptable.  If the EPD’s expanding authority is questioned, then their very function and existence on Emory campus may be questioned as well.  Public visibility of such questioning could shake the confidence of potential investors, who could just as easily take their large sums of money to more politically subdued campuses, hurting the interests (profit) of the Emory administration.  The groundwork for potential questioning of the Emory police had been laid, disrupting the apparatus that secures and attracts lucrative investments, and so by the administration’s calculus, computed in terms of its own interests, the dictates of the economy of illegalities prescribe that my act must be publicly paraded as illegal (hence criminal prosecution rather than in-house negotiation) and punished to the strict extent that the potential for the action’s repetition by me or imitation by others is expunged.  This is how Emory University has become a corporate campus within which maintaining an absolutely and unequivocally authorized and indeed unquestionably supreme, or should I say supremely unquestionable, police force is a central pillar of its operations.

By matter of a confluence of covetous interests, punitive interventions, and productive-regulatory programs, Emory University is a college campus in America where rampant cocaine usage is permitted by the indifference it is shown, while a considered exchange with a police officer is prosecuted with fervor.  Considered as such, the outcome of the political calculations and relations constituting Emory’s illegal economy is demonstrated to be twisted and contorted into a disturbing shape.

Now that the economy of illegalities has been laid out, I can conclude by asking the question that those who exercise administrative power at Emory University wish not to be asked.  For whom, or for what, is the Emory Police Department good?  Does the EPD prevent violent crime or theft for campus workers?  Do they protect students with certain needs from being bullied?  As we know from a recent upsurge in the reporting of sexual assault, they do not prevent abhorrent actual crimes such as the rape of female-bodied persons.  So what does the Emory Police Department do?

I put forth the hypothesis that primarily, the existence of the Emory Police Department serves to enforce the economy of illegality desired by the Emory Administration.  It does this by forcefully putting down any political action that the administration finds undesirable.  This is the EPD’s raison d’êtreAgain, a political action is understood by the administration as any action that may potentially lead to an effect on its interests, such as raising questions about campus labor relations in an unmanaged fashion.  Almost any action can be perceived to be political and treated as such if the Emory Administration deems it necessary – the decision is solely theirs.  To a great extent, the Emory Administration controls the means of the representation of campus actions.  Indeed, what the Emory brand seeks, and is already in the process of developing as a model for the 21st century University, is the total management and oversight of campus action representation.

Such concentration of representational power in the hands of those with undisclosed interests and vast punitive power on a college campus is flatly dangerous for independent thinkers.  As we can see, with regard to politically undesirable actions, Emory seeks not just to avoid their occurrence, but in practice to abolish the conditions for their mere potentiality by representing them as socially unmeritorious and specially dangerous for those who partake in them.  And this is where the unquestionability of the EPD and its troubling punitive power comes in.  The existence of the much-funded and seemingly unquestionably authoritative Emory Police Department serves to strike a preemptive blow against any and all students that may wish to engage in independent political organizing and action that could potentially place in question the goals and interests of Emory’s stakeholders and the Emory enterprise at large.

To understand how this functions at the level of individual student realities, one must ask the following question: if any Emory students wanted to strongly question, say, the direction of the Goizueta Business School or Emory’s ties to the CIA, Coca-Cola, or AIPAC, what must they consider?  Any student partaking in such unauthorized and unmanaged political engagement on Emory campus is now forced to weigh the strength of their convictions against their willingness to confront the absolutely real possibility of being arrested and potentially injured by the Emory Police, carted off to Dekalb County Jail, searched by the probing hands of multiple officers, and stripped down and made to “squat and cough” – not to mention the coextensive potential state punishment of serving one year of incarceration.  Understandably, for many students, this is a deeply personal risk, the price of which is simply too heavy to pay.  For instance, many rape survivors or persons triggered by thoughts and experiences of sexual violence may find themselves summarily occluded from taking spontaneous political action due to the certainty of the bodily harm they would face by carrying out their beliefs.  Handcuffs, pat-downs, and forced nudity could send them into violently traumatic episodes that they strongly wish to avoid.  And of course, the personal risk is unacceptably high for any student who may wish to become politically involved.  Indeed, at Emory University, for most students the movement of thinking in spontaneous political directions is stopped before it can even start – much to the delight of the administration and its well-heeled backers.

Things have been arranged at Emory University so that those who may wish to become involved in genuine political engagement falling under the undisclosed and liberally wide category of ‘undesired by the Emory administration’ are produced as criminal subjects, and the penalties associated with such ‘criminality’ have been calibrated to such a degree of intensity, that the desire to repeat the offense is squelched, and the drive to imitate it is liquidated, nearly eliminating the conditions for the potentiality of independent political thinking in the first place.

The existence of perpetual illegal activity at Emory University is not a result of the flow of unchecked or unnoticed action, nor activity’s surplus.  Rather, the functioning of Emory’s economy of illegalities evidences a finely-tuned and fiercely managed political coordination that protects the interests of the Emory administration and high-paying investors, while seeking to eliminate even the possibility of those interests being in any way undermined.  Covered up with slogans, committees, and all sorts of administrative, professorial, and student cheerleaders, the political reality of Emory University is that not only has the administration put in motion the preemptive suppression of independent political action, but it has already nearly succeeded in erasing the mere disposition of any of its students towards spontaneous political thought.  Emory University’s ethical engagement can be summed up in two words – Administrative Totalitarianism.  If one is not willing to risk such a condemnation, I would only ask, what more must one see in order to do so – perhaps the active physical suppression of students by the EPD?  Well, that’s already happened, too.

“Look at yourselves.  Some of you teenagers, students.  How do you think I feel belonging to a generation ahead of you – how do you think I feel to have to tell you, ‘We, my generation, sat around like a knot on a wall while the whole world was fighting for its human rights – and you’ve got to be born into a society where you still have to fight that same fight.’  What did we do, we who preceded you?  I’ll tell you what we did.  Nothing.  And don’t you make the same mistake we made.” – Malcolm X

I write to share my thoughts with those who are interested.  For some, reading about my experiences may help them to understand better the perspectives of those who have had life experiences similar to mine.  I write about my thoughts, even my troubling ones, because they have been thought.  As thoughts that have been thought, they can never be unthought.  In other words, the thought thoughts can never again become foreign to my mind.  They constitute my reality.

Since my arrest I’ve received many messages of encouragement and support.  Many friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and associates have spoken against the particular police action involved in my arrest.  Several have also joined in noting lurid connections between what happened in the library and the increasing militarization of Emory University, places of education in general, and the nation at large.  Of course, there have been some skeptics and critics.  I feel that as long as the discourse surrounding the arrest is conducted with a fierce commitment to Right over Might, then it is of good accord.  Self-conscious dialogue regarding any rights violation situation is passionately encouraged, as frank speech conducted with an orientation open to reception of the Truth actualizes a moment within and leads to the unfolding of justice and peace.

That being said, I cannot write any further without strongly denouncing the absolutely detestable sexist and homophobic comments that have appeared on various internet threads. Some may feel that given the particular identities at play in the arrest, the fact that such ‘trolling’ has come about as such is curious.  But, it must be noted that misogyny and heterosexism not only drive intolerable attitudes towards women and LGBTQ persons, but also fuel human hatred in countless forms. Chauvinistic arrogance and wanton aggression both harm their primary targets and degrade human consciousness by plunging the minds of their possessors into states of emotional as well as actual intellectual regression.  They Offend the Whole.  No mistake should be made regarding the fact that sexism and homophobia have absolutely no place in our world, and just so there aren’t any misunderstandings, we all must make this abundantly clear.

Other than the reception of feedback, there are a couple other updates I can offer.  Physically, I am feeling better –the joint is still sore when I rotate my wrist; there may be bruising.  So far though, the psychological branding has been more challenging to overcome than the physical assault.  Up until very recently, after the arrest not a single night passed through which I slept peacefully.  Every night I was shocked out of an unsleep by a terrifying nightmare.  I call it unsleep because I wish to reserve the word ‘sleep’ for denoting periods of time that not only entail unconsciousness, but also lead one to feel rested, in so doing bringing about feelings of rejuvenation and attentiveness-to-Life.  While I’m no stranger to nightmares, to be seemingly zapped into a frenzied panic night after night for a period of weeks is physically exhausting and emotionally draining.

When this happens with such regularity, the moments before sleep become filled with a melancholic anxiety.  Each night, it is uncertain whether or not I will feel in my mind the experience of being chased, assaulted, shot at, sexually abused, or tortured by the police.

Not too long ago, a neurologist diagnosed me with sleep paralysis.  <– This wiki article provides an ample description of its symptoms:

“The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes, with some rare cases being hours, “by which the individual may experience panic symptoms”[6] (described below). As the correlation with REM sleep suggests, the paralysis is not entirely complete; use of EOG traces shows that eye movement is still possible during such episodes.[7] When there is an absence of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis is referred to as isolated sleep paralysis (ISP).[8]

In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger.[9] Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations.[8] The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision.”

Sleep paralysis is heightened in both frequency and severity by a) lack of sleep, and b) extreme stress.  My jail experience has brought forth both, resulting in some exceedingly terrifying nights.  The first night I slept in a bed after I was released, I was thrown abruptly from unsleep into half-consciousness. My eyes opened, so I could see the room around me, yet I was unable to move.  I was frozen in bed, supine, physically paralyzed and gripped with a panic.  As my eyes searched the room, I saw the shadowy outline of what my mind at the time believed to be a cop standing outside of the (2nd story) window just feet away from me.  I struggled against my paralysis to get up, leave the room… to do anything but lie there.  I could not.  I couldn’t even scream.  All I could do was struggle as I endured complete psychosomatic shock.  This particular episode lasted for maybe 30 seconds, yet the experiential terror of a hallucinatory looming cop combined with severe muscular restriction seemed to stretch that half-minute to a near interminable amount of time.

In the ten days and nights following the 6th of December, deep distress would creep in on me.  One particular point of pain had burrowed itself deeply in the recesses of my mind.  I felt its twinge always at those times when it is least welcome – during intimate moments with family or friends, when I was reading or writing, or just sitting or lying down alone.  Frequently, the normal flow of my mind would be interrupted disturbingly by flashbacks to moments with Dog, the Dekalb County Detention Officer with the searching eyes.  The feeling of being forced to strip naked with complete strangers in front of a glaring authority figure would cause tension in my knuckles and shoulders.  My face would scrunch up at the mental discomfort.  Yet still, I would be thrown into an even more emotionally taxing state by a further reflection: Not only was I forced to strip for Dog, but potentially, I was made to get naked for the eyes of several impudent and immaturely-behaved male cops, uncourageous female officers, and Who Knows Who Else.

As I reflect on the experience, or rather, as the weight of the episode overtakes my mind, I remember looking straight ahead, past the two unclothed inmates standing on either side of me, past Dog’s cauterizing gaze, straight to the back chamber wall made of mostly glass.  I remember looking directly at the dark plastic bubble that was perched high on the inside of the chamber.  That dark plastic bubble concealed a secret.  In the chamber in which I was forcibly stripped, there was a video camera.

The camera was covered in a dark plastic half-sphere and pointed into the chamber.  Cameras in similarly designed chambers skulked high above the toilets.  My initial frustration with them concerned their enabling of officer-involved visual penetration into urination and defecation.  (If one cares to, there are ways to guard oneself from eyes when engaging in such activities; this writing is not meant to be vulgar, simply, these are the realities one is faced with in confinement – I cannot fully imagine the personal invasion that takes place in higher-security prisons, such as Quantico, where Bradley Manning was tortured – see here, here, here, and here).   But beyond toilet-time watch, a different thought regarding police surveillance pierces my mind like a long fingernail stabbing itself into the folds of my brain.  I remain unable to set the thought completely aside.

As we were made to get naked, stand still with our hands at our sides for some time, and then told to turn around and squat, the camera was facing in our direction – it must have been recording the whole time.  Upon typing this I feel a violation which is located more in my heart than in my mind.  I cannot stand the thought.  Police voyeurism and indecency happen all the time – my victimization just adds my name to the millions nationally and billions internationally already scarred by such police activity.

I know that I can never fully deny the memory, so I must find ways to learn from it.  Questions emerge.   Why is the humiliation and dehumanization of all arrested by the police, regardless of guilt, considered to be just part of the process?  Is the psychological assault deliberate?  How can it not be?  Do the authorities have some sort of Pornographic Security file loaded with naked pictures of inmates, which they can access whenever they wish to look upon the forcibly stripped body of any prisoner who has passed through their doors?  With police flagrantly abusing their ‘right’ to physical force and authority time and again, the final question must be put forth: Is the effect of wielding Authority so cancerous to the human mind that those brandishing such Authority over Life and Death inevitably execute that Authority in vile and pathological ways?

As new realizations sink in, I can say that I’ve moved from feelings of absolute apprehension to reflective resignation.  This resignation is not depressive, but rather involves a solemn affirmation of the realities that militate against one in life – leading to the acknowledgement that potent responses must follow.  When the Order of Things provides no solace, one must find inner resolve through struggle. Yet and still, anguish persists more than sporadically.  The nightmarish hallucinations induced by sleep paralysis have become more nebulous and menacing.  While my older nightmares involved particular cops, my more recent paralytic experiences have spawned faceless person-shaped entities that crawl out from under furniture to watch or restrain me.  I have been dealing with this through reading, meditation, and prayer, as well as relying on support from family and friends.  Other than that, I can do nothing but focus my thoughts and rest when I can.  Emory University has not attempted to rectify the situation or contact me in any way – there are no legal updates to offer.

I am keeping in touch with very concerned friends as we try to find ways to disarm and disable hateful, authoritarian, and oppressive ways of thinking and being.  Many of us feel that the aim must involve changing the dominant social relation that holds between persons from economic-productive (which reduces to Hate) to communal-caring.  My friends and I know that we must rely on our collective strength.  Separate from each other, and indeed from ourselves, we dissolve in the inchoate symbolic order, falling prey to its manipulation of our desires and habits of cognition.  Fragmented socially and cognitively, our minds are over-stimulated in the attempt to preclude the formation of habits of deliberate reflection and critical thought.  But together, when we involve ourselves in the lives of one another and the world at large, we certainly can learn, grow, and resist.  For the time being, I will try to find increasingly effective ways to do so.

Why Was I Arrested?

Posted: December 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Why Was I Arrested?   and the video

At about 11:30 PM, on 12/6/11, during finals, I was arrested in the main library on my college campus.  I spent the next 22 hours under full surveillance (including while I was using the toilet), subjected to verbal abuse, being repeatedly uncuffed and cuffed, patted down on my entire body, stripped naked and made to stand and squat in full view of a man named ‘Dog’, all while being deprived for various amounts of time of things like toilet paper and a place to lie down.  I didn’t get my bookbag back for 34 hours on top of that.  Why did this happen?

First, allow me to identify myself – my name is Joe Diaz.  I am 24 years old.  I am Latino.  I am currently in the middle of my 2nd year of studies towards a PhD in Philosophy at Emory University, for which I have a 5-year scholarship.  This identification is offered freely, on my own accord, during a time which I do not feel threatened or unsafe.  I had spent most of December 6th in the library reading and writing, given that the deadlines for 3 15-20 page seminar papers were fast approaching.  I had just presented a 7-page paper that night during an Aesthetics & Hermeneutics seminar that ended at 9 PM.  This matters only because it’s the reason that my bookbag was full of books.  I had returned to Woodruff library (yes, the same Woodruff the park in Atlanta was named after) following my presentation.  I was on the 7th floor working while waiting for the study room that my friends and I had reserved for 12-4 AM.  We definitely had plans to get serious work done.  Around 11:20 PM, I realized that I had left some books for my next paper at my apartment, and my friend, Meghan, said she’d accompany me on (what we thought would be) a quick trip down the road and back.

It was upon leaving the library to exchange the books in my bookbag for other ones, that I saw the police.  It’s not rare to see police on Emory campus, but to see them in the library was pretty unusual.  Being members of the activist community in Atlanta, my friend and I have both attended “Know Your Rights” and street medic trainings.  We have tried to live by King’s challenging words, “Silence is betrayal.”   In situations where people may be hurting, we are more disposed to actively pursue peaceful solutions than to keep quiet and look the other way.

In Atlanta, situations involving the police are tense and tend to escalate (see: here and here).  So, aware of what is involved in doing so, I walked over to the enclosed area within which the cops were standing.  When near, but not inside this entrance area, I saw that 3 large males were standing over an older, diminutive woman, sitting down.  Knowing what some of my female friends have gone through at the hands of male cops, this situation in itself made me uneasy.  It was then I recognized the woman sitting down – it was Alice!

I was happy to see Alice, as I always am.  Alice is an older woman who I am certain that any Emory library rat (by this I mean, any student frequenting Woodruff Library on a regular basis) recognizes.  She’s often walking in and out of the library carrying more books and folders than it seems her stature could possibly support (perhaps her and I are alike in this way).  We’ve talked on different occasions about changes in Atlanta, Emory’s impact on the city, and the historical development of the Black Church in America.  It was this last topic that brought us together.  One occasion, while talking on the steps outside the library, I recommended to her Evelyn Higginbotham’s Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920.  We were accustomed to these kinds of exchanges.  So, when I saw the police looming over this kind woman, I didn’t know what to think – other than that I could aid in some way, be that by informing the police that she is a frequent Woodruff library visitor, or simply bringing a calming smile to Alice while checking to see if she is physically OK.

Upon slowly opening the door to the library entrance area where the situation unfolded, the officers shouted at me.  This is how our interaction began.  This is how tension was incited.  The first thing I told the officers was, “Hi, I’m an Emory student and street medic, I know this woman, is she OK?”  “Identify yourself!”  commanded the largest officer in return.  The next few moments happened very quickly.  I did not get to talk to Alice at all.  I did not walk over to her.  I did not stand between her and the police.  I felt unsafe in the enclosed area, and so remained near the door.  As the police asserted their dominion over this part of the library, which I have spent literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours in over the past year and a half, I was simply taken aback.  I was asked, “Are you an Emory student?”  It is no trivial fact to note that this question was hollered at me aggressively.  Since I opened my interaction with the police by informing them that I am an Emory student, at this point I knew they were not listening to my words.  I knew the officers were in a ‘military mindset.’

By ‘military mindset’, I mean something very specific.  In this situation, the officer never saw me as a student or the surrounding area as a library.  He never asked me something like “How do you know this woman?” or even, “Shouldn’t you be studying during finals time?”  Actual context was irrelevant.  For the cops, the scene was a Battle.  The cop’s comportment demonstrated that I was being viewed as a Potential Enemy and that the library was being deemed a Combat Zone.  In a Combat Zone, one does not discuss, one does not reason – one sees only Danger, fighting against it with one goal in mind: Elimination.  My presence, for some reason, was seen as the Threat to be Liquidated – even before my ID was demanded.  Even so, I reiterated that I was an Emory student.  “Yes, I’m an Emory student,” I clearly, if somewhat nervously, stated.  At this time, feeling threatened in the enclosed area, I began to back out towards the doorway opening into the main lobby from where I had entered.  This is approximately when the video begins.

In the beginning of the video shot by my friend Meghan, one can see what I mean by Combat Zone.  First, a library security guard inveighed against documentation, stating falsely, “M’am, you can’t record that.”  Nice try, but that’s a boldfaced lie.  This in itself should scare us.  We’ve seen recent expulsion and destruction of documentation devices all over America.  The normalization of Absolute Cover for police matters is frightening for obvious reasons.  Fortunately, Meghan asserted her constitutional rights.

At this time in the video, (0:09-0:15), it can be seen that I am standing with my back to the door.  My hands are low and outstretched, my palms open in a purposefully nonthreatening and passive fashion.  The two cops, on the other hand, are faced not towards Alice, but me, in wide, rigid and powerful stances. One office can be seen making a “give me” gesture, while the taller office is seen repeatedly thrusting his finger in the air at me.  At this point I try one more time to contextualize the situation and diffuse the tension by stating that I was in the library that I always study at, I know the woman sitting a few feet from me, and that I’m an Emory student.  This is when things escalate.

At 0:23, the taller officer starts making gestures towards his belt.  Was he reaching for pepper spray?  Visions of UC Davis run through my mind.  Both officers lurch towards me.  Tension rises.  I feel more intimidated and less safe.  These two men were not only much, much larger than me, but irate and armed.  Seeing that Meghan was recording the police incident, I walked out of the door so that it can be clear that not only did I identify myself verbally as an Emory student, but also I showed the officers my Emory student card.

At 0:38, the taller officer says, “M’am, take the camera out of my face.”  Meghan’s ‘camera’ was her iphone, and she was holding it far, far away from the officer’s face.  Why bellow such an absurd command? A reasonable question – but remember, in the military mindset, actual context is irrelevant, and those who are not wearing your uniform or do not cower at your command, are first and foremost Potential Enemies.  The same cop repeats the charge for my ID, and I show it to him, but do not hand it to him.  Having had a run-in with the Emory police in a civil disobedience demonstration last April, I was thinking that strict identification, if they didn’t already know who I was, could lead these cops to adopt an even more belligerent attitude.  Still, I showed them my Emory ID card to prove that I was indeed an Emory student (which may have been obvious from the fact that I was wearing a bookbag in the library during finals).  The officer stated that I was “required to release” my ID card.  Why is this?  Does Emory University have a Identify-Yourself-or-Else policy?  I was leaving the scene and returning to the library which I had come from.  Am I required to show the officer an ID since he continued to engage with me?  Can I not voluntarily disengage from a public police interrogation on my campus?  Does his dominion of inquisition extend to wherever he roams?  Could he have followed me further into the library repeating the demand, not stopping until I complied or was arrested?

Given the cop’s antagonistic tone, I took out my phone to document the situation myself.  As I was doing so, I was multi-tasking, trying to answer questions calmly while keeping myself safe.  At this point, I wasn’t as articulate as I would have liked to have been.  I should have been calmer, but the cop’s vibes were making me pretty nervous.  I began to state again that I was in the library of my university trying to talk to a friend whom I know, and that being compelled to comply with a “Show Me Your Papers” command didn’t seem to speak to the actual context of the situation at hand.  Here is where some will say I was wrong.  Here is where They will assert that in such a situation the police are Infallible and the only proper response is complete obedience.   The cops can’t be expected to exercise calm discretion or allow a situation to naturally diffuse if it is going in that direction.  Absolute acquiescence or deserved self-endangerment –  there is nothing else, some will claim.

Here, at 0:54 in the video, is the first time that I was told that if I did not release my ID I was “going to be placed under arrest for obstruction.”  At this point, I removed myself fully from the emergent zone of absolute police authority within my library by walking out of the entrance area.   I demonstrated clearly that there was no penetration, or ‘obstruction’, of that area of which the cops had taken control.  Or so I thought.  “This guy is serious,” I stated in astonishment at the cop’s hostility, as I left through the door I entered.  “I’m trying to answer him,” I told Meghan, at 1:00 – which  is when one can see the cop pursue me out of his ‘scene’ of investigation and into the main library lobby out of which I had just walked.  What happens next is scary.  I try to describe the situation to my friend Meghan, as I walk away from the scene, and the taller cop places himself directly between Meghan and I, inches in front of me.  As soon as I begin to verbalize to Meghan what had just happened, the officer starts screamingCompare my tone at 1:03 to the officer’s at 1:06.  As soon as the roaring commences, so does the physical force.  The officers bend my arms behind my large bookbag and slap handcuffs around my wrists in a very painful way.  Since my bookbag was so large, my wrists could barley be connected, and my left wrist was yanked, twisted, and cut up.  In jail, my wrist was pretty swollen.  2 days later there are still visible cuts and bruises.  At the time, my left hand went numb.

In the video, at the point of the arrest, one can discern the military mindset.  Be Loud and Forceful.  Erase the Problem.  Detain the Enemy.  Shock and Awe.  The arresting officer was in such a raging haze that something truly frightening happens.  When reaching for his handcuffs, he instinctively grabs his pistol.  Around 1:32, he can be seen pinning me against the desk and grasping his hands around the cold steel about 3-4 times.  Some might dismiss this, saying that it was a muscle twitch, but I would warn against such casual indifference.  When things happen quickly, cops using physical force can be in such a fury that they act through muscle memory.  Hyped-up cops have ‘mistakenly’ grabbed their guns and shot unarmed/detained young men in the past, blaming it on unintentional pistol-grabbing.

After locating his handcuffs, the officer proceeds to bend my arms further behind my bookbag.  At 1:51, I shout in pain as my left wrist was bent by the cop.  He rigidly clamped the left cuff, digging it deep into the knobby area of my wrist known as the pisiform.  As a verbal expression of pain escapes me, the officer exclaims, “Stop resisting!!”  Stop resisting???  It is obvious that in my compromised position I was absolutely unable to offer any resistance if I so wished, which I did not.  The officer, maybe twice my size in the literal sense, was on top of me, his knee into my legs and his hands around my bent arms, with the cuffs quite firmly around my wrists. Yet the officer repeats, “Stop resisting!”

Like so many other cops, this officer seemingly uses this command whenever he wants to apply excessive force during an arrest.   In fact, the phrase “stop resisting” has become a sort of mantra for cops during violent detention (see here, here, here, and here).  Minutes later, this law enforcer sent chills down my spine when, as we walked together to the police vehicle, he repeated “Stop resisting” over and over, coldly, like an unholy hymn.  The words had lost whatever contextual meaning they may have had. “Stop resisting… stop resisting… stop resisting…”  These two words, now risen in their ideality, seem to summarize the cops’ Exalted Mission better than ‘Protect and Serve’ ever did.

What followed this detention was physically, mentally, and spiritually trying.  I sat in the backseat of the police vehicle, watching as the arresting officer Googled the Georgia Code, apparently in order to find a law under which to subsume the arrest ad hoc.  I was then transported to the Emory Police Department office where I remained for some time, maybe 2 hours.  Following this, I was moved to DeKalb County Jail.

Upon entry to DeKalb County, the arresting officer, who also was my transporter, joked with 3 officers as he passed me off in the jail’s initial processing room.  All 4 of them started to ridicule me, telling me things like “You can’t talk back to a cop, boy, you ain’t got ‘nuff weight on ya,” “Damn, how you gon’ give first aid when you need a shower ya’self? ” They chuckled loudly.  As the arresting officer departed I told him that I’d pray for him.  The ridiculing officers then searched my person.  They patted down my whole body, roughly, cupping my inner thighs and my genitals.  I tried my best to take my mind elsewhere.

My experience in DeKalb was lengthy, but I will try to recapitulate it as succinctly as I can.  I was placed in a small holding cell with over 20 others, in which every spot on the bench was taken, so 4 of us, including myself, laid down on the filthy floor.  I had only a t-shirt on my upper half, since I was in the library.  It was cold in the cell.  I was taken out for medical evaluations.  Thinking of Foucault’s concept of bio-power, I took note of the tests done to me, including a forehead scan (to check for temperature?), a blood pressure test, and the injection of something into my arm, which I was told was TB test.  I was moved from the more crowded holding cells into smaller ones.  I was taken out of the cell and made to face the wall, place my palms against it, and spread my legs “as wide as [I] could.”  I was felt up again by an officer’s searching hands – all the way up.  For strength, I thought of my Savior, who faced much tougher trials…again, I tried to separate my mind from my body.

After several hours of being alternatively being searched and scanned and made to wait in cold cells with metal benches and dirty tile floors, I was given an opportunity to make one free phone call… at 8:22 AM, the next morning.  It cut out after 3 minutes.   I was then cuffed together with 11 other inmates and marched to a larger room, a kind of grand cell with smaller 2-person cells inside of it.  The 12 of us were ‘greeted’ by a large officer who told us they call him “Dog.”  Maybe he’s called that because he’s got quite a bark. I don’t know, but he talked loud and talked often.  He made comments on everyone’s arrests as he read our papers.  For some reason, he took to calling me “copbeater.”  At this time, my fellow inmates and I were split into 3s and marched into the back end of the room.  Dog, in a disturbingly gleeful tone, told us to “strip-down butt-naked,” practically singing to us that “This is what we do in Dee-Kallb!!”  And so there I stood, in jail, naked, in between two other naked male strangers, with a 3rd male, a Law Enforcer named ‘Dog’, eyeing me over.  Just hours before I was presenting on Gadamer’s Truth and Method.  Now, I was made to put my arms by my side and stand up straight so that Dog could get a good look at me.  Dog took the liberty to comment on my body.  Us 3 inmates, while still naked, were then told to face the wall and squat.

Sometime later, with my clothes back on, the other inmates and myself were marched to an even larger chamber.  This was where I’d spend most of the rest of my time in DeKalb County.  The cell had concrete walls painted all white, with high ceilings.  There were 4 or 5 metal tables with connected seats.  Most of the inmates sat in one of the ~ 10 plastic chairs connected together in a loose-U shape positioned around a blaring television.  I was exhausted, losing track of time, and struggling mentally.  I was shivering.  Although I sprawled out on the floor in the holding cells, I didn’t get any sleep.  It must have been around 10 AM by this time.  I asked an officer to open the cells within this chamber so that I could lie down.  Nope.  I set down on the floor, which was not much cleaner than those in the holding cells, with my arms inside my shirt, trying to fade out of consciousness.  Some “Good Day” type morning show was blaring on the television as I lied on the hard floor somewhere in consciousness limbo.  When I couldn’t sleep from the discomfort and cold, I just stared at the high, white ceilings.  The room was so bright, too bright for my sleepy eyes.  My thoughts however were turning dark as I rolled around trying to balance the toll taken by each shoulder and my back.

I never really made it to sleep before we were rounded up again, cuffed, and taken to ‘court.’  ‘Court’ was held in a concrete area about the size of my living room.  We were told that we shouldn’t have anything to say, that we were just being informed of our bail/bond conditions.  Occupy Atlanta, which I have been involved with, had provided me with a lawyer who attended.  I was so grateful.  The judge granted me a signature bond, meaning the $500 initial bond was reduced to nothing, just a signature.  It was around noon at this time.  Great, I thought, maybe I’ll be out in a couple hours.  I was wrong.

After court I was cuffed again and marched back to the large white-walled cell.  The TV blared on.  I talked to some of the other inmates and exchanged stories of our mistreatment at the hands of the cops.  Many of the stories were similar.  One man told me how officers shouted at him to stop resisting as he was seizing.  We compared bruises and cuts.  We talked about organizing on the outside.  1 PM passed, 2…3… Day-time television rang out loudly.  Television does not agree with me – I never watch it; I don’t have one in my apartment –  so I asked a guard if I could either be taken to the library I saw near the ‘courtroom’ or at least given a Bible to read.  Nope.  In the holding cells, for the first 6 hours of my time, there was no toilet paper, so I couldn’t use the bathroom.  There was TP in this chamber, but there was a camera placed high behind the toilet.  I shuddered at the thought of the guard (who I knew was watching the video for that camera, since she’d buzz in and yell at inmates if they crossed a red line of tape put in the front of the chamber) watching me as I defecated.  But I had to go – I had no other choice.  They watch everything.

As the hours passed, I remembered that I was supposed to hand in a 15-page paper at 2 PM, 12/7.  It was the paper for which I was leaving to grab books when I was detained.  On Tuesday night, I was excited to write on the movement from Perception to Understanding contained within Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit.  Now, I remember being in jail, around hour 16, rolling on the ground and laughing with slight deliriousness at this fact.

The hours dragged on.  I stretched, meditated, went through recent conversations with friends in my mind, basically just doing whatever I could to keep my thoughts off of the droning of the only sounds in the chamber: the buzzing of some temperature system and the dreaded TV – Maury, 4 PM local news, 5 PM local news, 6 PM local news.  It wasn’t until almost 10 PM that I was released.  I was so happy to see Meghan, and our two other closest friends, Kayla and Ezgi waiting there for me.  Almost a full 24-hours passed since the police arrested me in the library.  Having not eaten at all in prison (they offered some meaty foods, but I didn’t eat them – I did this on my own accord), all I could think about was food and getting my bookbag back.  My friends brought me the former.  We went straight to Emory PD to get the latter – but ‘property’ is ‘managed’ during ‘normal business hours.’  I couldn’t get my bookbag until the next morning.  So, during finals week, not only did my University arrest me in its library, but they also kept my books from me for a full 34 hours.

How should we judge this situation?  The proposition “Joe Diaz was arrested in the library and charged with obstruction of a police investigation” is true.  But what is our value judgment on it? Ought we ask – what was being ‘obstructed’ and how?  Was excessive force used?  Is it right that Joe was jailed and treated as less than human?  Is it right that anyone is?  Was this an instance of Justice?  Answering these questions involves looking at more than the 3 minute video.  The question, “Should he have been arrested?” in this context translates to, “Should he have been forcefully detained, effectively deprived of sleep, separated from his belongings for an extended period of time, felt up and down, stripped nakedm ridiculed, and given a court date for a hearing in March?”  The ‘arrest’ was all of these things, it wasn’t merely the act of the cop censuring me for whatever reason.  If your answer is yes, this ‘arrest’ was deserved, I’m genuinely interested in hearing your justification.

There has been some commentary concerning what took place.  How do I feel?  I’m exasperated, incensed, tired and melancholy.  But it’s not only about what happened to me.  The police use combative force recklessly and with impunity all the time.  The prisons have been proliferating rapidly and getting worse in quality for years.  As far as the University goes, not so long ago, it was considered an autonomous space for learning and growing.  Police had little presence on campuses, if any.  They were seen as interferers of the state in a setting that was supposed to look more like the Lyceum, not the Bastille.  Decades ago, having a student arrested in the library during finals would have been an outrage for the whole campus community.  But in 2011, it seems that authoritarianism has become so normalized and sleepwalking so normative, that some Emory students and professors may barely bat an eye at what happened.  Some might even support it.  Emory seems to be more interested in teaching their ‘future leaders’ market manipulation than Socratic questioning.  Don’t even get me started on the doubletalk that are Emory’s slogans: ‘Ethical Engagement’ and ‘Courageous Inquiry.’  The joke has lost its humor.

Even so, maybe people will merely ‘keep calm and carry on’ as the old British slogan enjoying a renewed popularity states.  I’m reminded of a quote from James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son: “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”  Maybe those monsters lurk about us.  Or, perhaps this episode will effectively freak out students, professors, and others paying attention.  Maybe they’ll see it as an unacceptable offense in the name of Authority and Order – History’s perennial towering Agents of Oppression.  Whatever will come of this, it is clear that we who love freedom and yearn for democracy’s actualization certainly have our work cut out.